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A History Of Table Tennis

Like many sports, table tennis started as a mild social diversion. And while it evolved from ancient tennis, table tennis started developing after lawn tennis became popular in the late 1880s. It all started when countless manufacturers struggled to make an indoor version of lawn tennis including dice games, balloon games, racket, card games and others.


The Rise Of Alan Duke:

Alan Duke is a renowned researcher who recently stumbled upon an English patent dated 26th June 1883 for improved game nets. It describes net post mechanisms that was intended for ordinary lawn tennis, and which could be modified for indoor games. He accurately concludes that this is probably the earliest reference to a table version of tennis. There is, however, no other evidence to support the existence of table tennis during the period when this patent registered.

Steve Grant recently found the mention of James Devonshire in a 1901 interview in The Echo where John Jaques claimed that he (Devonshire) invented the game of table tennis. Alan Duke also found from The Official Journal of the Patent Office that on October 9, 1885, Devonshire applied for a Patent for his ‘Table Tennis,’ whose Provisional Specifications were approved on November 24, 1885. As of January 1887, the Application was listed as Abandoned. No evidence of Devonshire’s game has been found, and this likely means that it was probably never put into production.

The First Set:

The earliest surviving set of a tennis game on a table is a table that was made by David Foster, and which was patented in 1890. It featured a 30mm cloth-covered rubber ball, strung rackets, a wooden fence and large side nets that extend along both sides. The GOSSIMA game was released a year later and featured drum style battledores, a 30cm high net that was secured by a strap under the table, as well as a 50mm webbed wrapped cork ball. Very few of these have survived the years.

None of the above games succeeded mainly due to the fact that the ball wasn’t very effective. The cork ball had a poor bounce while the rubber ball had a wild bounce. The celluloid ball was introduced in 1900, and this marked the true invention of table tennis as the concept was now 100% successful. The distinct sound made by the celluloid ball as it bounced off led to the popular use of the term ‘ping pong.’ Gossima was soon dropped, and today ping pong is mostly associated with antique table tennis tables.

Beginnings In Egypt:

The laws of the game varied in the 1900s greatly depending on countries, but with the creation of table tennis authorities like International Table Tennis Federation, they were soon harmonised. The first World Championship held outside Europe were held in Cairo, Egypt, in 1939. In 1937, the net was lowered to six inches to allow for more attacking tactic while time limits were imposed for the first time in the same year. This article has been shared with us by TR sports Australia.